Corporate storytelling or narrative applied to the management of organizational content provides important advantages when defining and developing a company’s communication strategy. Instead of limiting ourselves to outlining the tactical actions that, over a certain period of time, will allow us to develop the messages previously defined, according to our objectives, this strategy is structured in the form of story to bring coherence to the succession of tactical actions that we will end up using. Thus, the classic story form ends up being the one that helps us to organize our activity and to better capture the attention of our target audiences. That is why we must know the five classic narrative plots in order to know the most common techniques that we can apply to our plan.
Working with storytelling in this way is an advantage, but it is not easy. We must be able to imagine the communication objectives as the conclusion of a story that we will be telling over a certain period of time: a month, six months, a year…. As in storytelling, the story is articulated in such a way as to establish roles and key moments (climax and anticlimax) that contribute to maintaining the interest of the people we are addressing, whether they are outside the organization or belong to it.
The short story is a rather simple structure that usually responds to simple schemes in which characters and action must be clearly articulated. As Guillaume Lamarre masterfully sums up, there are five general schemes that condense almost all of them, and that can help us to understand how to apply them in the communication of our company, organization or brand. Let’s go with them:
1. Defeat the dragon
The story of the knight defeating the mythological animal that terrorizes the people can be interpreted in a much more mundane way: the dragon is the representation of something we want to end or change because it negatively affects a collective, society or employees. What we do to transform or eradicate such evil will enable us to chart a corporate narrative. If we want to put an end to discrimination in the company, for example, the actions aimed at this and the evaluation of the moment when the indicators allow us to conclude that we have achieved the proposed progress will allow us to count the facts that allow us to move forward and achieve the objective. There we have a corporate history.
2. The renaissance
In this case, the protagonist is affected by events that diminish his influence or affect his ability to act, such as falling under the effects of a spell and acting to the detriment of his closest people. The story, therefore, revolves around the ability to bounce back and be reborn, turning the situation around. In corporate storytelling, it is the type of plot that we can use to organize our communication actions when we are seeking to recover from a reputational problem that has seriously undermined the trust of our audiences. That was the approach that the now defunct Bankia used years ago, after the preference shares crisis, to convey to its customers that it was willing to establish a new starting point to regain their trust.
3. The search
Some of the most famous stories are structured around this plot: the hero or group of heroes tries to reach a destination where, often, the unknown awaits them, but which may be the solution to their problems. The important thing is the destination and its consequences. In the case of corporate stories, we can use this storytelling to organize the communication strategy that accompanies the company’s search for a solution or a specific advance in the field in which it operates. Volvo’s “The E.V.A. Initiative”, through which it sought to improve anchoring systems in vehicles to increase women’s safety through a project open to other manufacturers, would be a perfect example. The important thing was not the how, but the what: what could be achieved through this collaboration.
4. The trip
This plot is very similar to the previous one, but if in the search the important thing was the destination, in the journey the important thing is the journey. Here, we put the focus on the adventures we are going to live together, without having the certainty that we are going to get to a specific point. In classic stories, such as “The Wizard of Oz”, the characters finally arrive at their destination, but what keeps the story interesting are the stages they go through and the beings they meet. In storytelling for companies, this organization of content can be applied to show the living evolution of a company: its history, its changes, its vicissitudes and where it is heading. It is ideal for looking back and counting milestones in organizational transformation, such as when celebrating a milestone anniversary.
5. From misery to wealth
Some of the most powerful stories have to do with the desire to overcome and the ability to leave behind a life of misfortune. The story that has as its protagonist someone who starts from a lack of resources and achieves outstanding success usually connects because it conveys to the audience that everything is possible, even when circumstances seem to be totally against them. Linked to the corporate story, it helps us to draw the story of companies that take their first steps in a humble way and achieve success against all odds. Many startups have built their communication in this way, as is the case of Vicio, the catering firm, which always remembers how it began its journey in the midst of the pandemic, as an exclusive delivery service, and now has hundreds of employees and its own network of physical establishments. Is there anything more epic than that?
The benefits of using plots and, in short, the use of classic storytelling in corporate communication, are obvious, but the most important one is empathy. The story connects with our emotional side, we can identify with the characters and it offers us a rhythm with which we can connect and keep our attention. It is therefore perfect for the structure of a communication plan. Do you dare to apply corporate storytelling?